A top neighbourhood in the HDB resale market, Sengkang is a good indicator of the changing mood and aspirations of young Singaporeans.
By Khalil Adis
Having a newly carved GRC and heavy weight political office holders are generally the necessary ingredients to ensure a clean sweep during Singapore's General Election.
However, that does not appear to be the case in 2020.
As seen during the recently concluded election, even having the labour chief and a Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport could not save Sengkang GRC from its electoral defeat.
Helmed by Ng Chee Meng together with Dr. Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye, the election witnessed Sengkang GRC falling into the hands of the relatively young and inexperienced team from The Workers' Party.
Comprising He Ting Ru, Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua, The Workers' Party emerged victorious with a 52.13 per cent win against the PAP's 47.87 per cent.
The rejection of both the NTUC chief and transport minister speaks volume on how the electorate feels about employment and transportation issues.
In Sengkang GRC's case, they are both intertwined.
Last November, Dr. Lam announced in Parliament the banning e-scooters which saw the livelihoods of many food delivery drivers affected overnight.
The ban appeared to be the last straw that broke the camel's back.
Despite a closed-door session at Sengkang West constituency with Dr. Lam himself and a S$7 million assistance package, the session was reportedly a tense one.
Elsewhere in other constituencies, many PMD riders had also expressed their disappointment with their respective MPs.
Meanwhile, the younger team from The Workers’ Party was a breath of fresh air and appeared closer to the ground.
They were humble and earnest yet are backed with a strong track record in their respective fields.
Jamus Lim, in particular, won over many Singaporeans’ heart during his live televised debate.
Even the police report filed against Raeesah Khan could not sway voters' opinion.
So what gives?
As a district, Sengkang has a relatively young population.
According to data from SingStats, the total population of Sengkang was 244,600 in 2019.
Of this, 159,840 or 65.34 per cent were aged 45 and below.
If we were to break this down further, 213,380 or 87.23 per cent live in HDB flats.
Of this, the majority of them (99,640 or 46.69 per cent) live in four-room flats.
The young population is worried about bread-and-butter issues such as jobs and social mobility.
A segment of these HDB dwellers were food delivery drivers trying to supplement their incomes.
That is until the ban of e-scooters affected their livelihoods.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this has helped further exacerbate the unhappiness on the ground which has perhaps translated to protest votes on the ballot box.
The 'Jamus Lim' effect
Then, there is also the 'Jamus Lim' effect.
A newcomer to the political arena, he mesmerised Singaporeans by being able to hold his own when pitted against the more experienced and senior politician, Dr. Vivian Balakrishan.
His message of not wanting to give the PAP "a blank cheque", seemed to resonate with many Singaporeans.
He subsequently became a trending topic on social media - a medium that is highly popular among young voters .
This, plus the rejection of gutter politics, as seen in the Raeesah Khan case, suggests that young and educated voters appreciate a clean fight and want checks and balances.
It also suggests that they are looking beyond municipal issues such as social inequality.
Clearly, character assasination and dangling carrots no longer work.
Sengkang is the most popular estate for HDB resale flats
Politics aside, Sengkang is the most popular HDB estate where 1,795 resale flats changed hands in 2019, according to data from the HDB.
This was followed by Woodlands and Yishun at 1,794 and 1,791 transactions respectively.
According to HDB's first quarter of 2020 data, resale HDB flats in Sengkang were transacted at a median resale price of S$340,000, S$425,000, S$480,000 and S$565,000 for three-, four- and five-room flats respectively.
While there are other attractive mature estates with better amenities such as Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio, their resale value have nose-dived in recent years due to their diminishing number of leases left.
Meanwhile, the resale value of homes in newer estates like Sengkang appear to be better protected.
This has perhaps explained why Sengkang is a popular neighbourhood among young families.
The lure of living in Sengkang
One such person who is currently looking for a home here is property agent Ady Ahmari.
“The flats in Sengkang are younger but cheaper, especially in Anchorvale,” he said.
Another reason is their generous sizes which is something he can attest to.
The property agent sold a 1,130 sq ft four-room flat in the area two months ago for S$350,000.
“The units are very big and comparable to five-room Built-To-Order (BTO) flats which are around 1,184 sq ft,” he said.
Perhaps one surprising intangible reason that he is lured to looking for a home here is the parks.
“Sengkang has a big garden where my family can enjoy the outdoors,” he said.
Indeed, Sengkang Riverside Park is popular among residents here featuring a constructed wetland and is rich in biodiversity.
In fact, the Sengkang ActiveSG Gym which is located within Anchorvale Community Club is the only such gym of its kind in Singapore offering a scenic river view of the Sengkang Riverside Park.
Amenities aside, Ahmari said having an opposition party there has also influenced his decision.
“I need an alternative voice,” he said.
Swing towards opposition could be due to declining resale value of HDB homes
Homeownership and their property value are closely tied to voters sentiment.
Let's look into the case of Toa Payoh HDB estate which falls under the Bishan - Toa Payoh GRC.
In the 2015 General Election, the PAP scored a victory with 73.59 per cent of the vote share against the Singapore People's Party (SPP).
However, the recently concluded election saw a vote swing of 6.33 per cent towards the SPP at 32.74 per cent.
While the PAP won by 67.27 per cent, its support saw a decline of 6.33 per cent.
Likewise, in other mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC, the PAP witnessed a vote swing towards the opposition at 6.72 per cent and 14.58 per cent respectively.
The endorsement of Sengkang GRC of The Workers' Party is reflective of the changing mood and aspirations of young Singaporeans.
Yes, they want a strong and capable government.
However, they also want a government who listens to them and not one who bulldozes through policies.
Some of these policies include the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which they believe have contributed to social inequalities (CECA became a hot-button national topic last year when Erramalli Ramesh was caught on video verbally abusing a Singaporean security guard at a condominium).
They also want a government that does not resort to hitting below-the-belt when it comes to their political opponents.
While the PAP has retained power in many estates, the vote swing towards the opposition could also suggest that older voters want the diminishing value of their homes addressed.
As one elderly person that I spoke to puts it: “This is not what was promised by Lee Kuan Yew”.
The good, the bad, the ugly: Singapore property market roundups and predictions for 2019
Singapore's private property market experienced robust growth but was muted midway by property cooling measures. We list down the key highlights in our 2018 property market roundups and our outlook for 2019.
By Khalil Adis
Singapore's private property market saw a steep rebound from the fourth quarter of 2017 after many quarters of decline in its Property Price Index (PPI) since the fourth quarter of 2013.
Figures from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed that the Lion City's PPI surged by 11.0 points from 138.7 in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 149.7 points in the third quarter of 2018.
However, the market softened from July onwards post the new property cooling measures.
Here are the top five property market roundups for 2018 and our top five outlooks for 2019.
#1: En-bloc fever
Singapore's property market was off to a fiery start with several collective sales deal that was concluded during the first half of the year.
They included the iconic Pearl Bank Apartments which was sold for S$728 million sales to CapitaLand and Park West which was sold for S$840.89 million to SingHaiyi Gold Pte Ltd.
Data from Cushman & Wakefield Inc showed that the collective sales market recorded S$3.8 billion of en-bloc transactions in the second quarter.
#2: New property cooling measures introduced
To douse the red-hot residential property market, the government announced a slew of property cooling measures in July.
This included increasing the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) rates and tightening loan-to-value (LTV) limits on residential property purchases.
The new ABSD rates and LTV limits are as above.
As a result, the collective sales market declined with S$353 million worth of transactions recorded in the third quarter, data from Cushman & Wakefield Inc showed.
#3: Industrial property market picks up steam
While Singapore's residential property sector has taken quite a hit, its industrial and commercial property sectors are seeing an uptrend in investment sales.
According to data from Cushman & Wakefield Inc, industrial property deals soared 73 per cent to S$1.2 billion in the third quarter while office sales increased by 54 per cent to S$2.1 billion.
Meanwhile, Jones Lang Lasalle Singapore, citing data from JTC statistics said islandwide all-industrial rental correction stayed modest at 0.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter for three consecutive quarters since the fourth quarter of 2017, while the second quarter of 2018 all-industrial price index flat-lined for the first time since trending down in the third quarter of 2014.
#4: HDB resale values are declining
HDB is a hot bread and butter issue among Singaporeans as 80 per cent of the population lives in public housing flat.
Public interest in HDB dominated the headlines in 2018 as government officials warned that their values could decline, especially those that are more than 40 years with around 50 years left on their 99-year lease.
This marked a stark contrast during Lee Kuan Yew's era when he assured Singaporeans that HDB flats are an asset.
Property agents who specialise in HDB flats in mature estates such as Toa Payoh say they are already seeing prices of older resale flats declining as many buyers are staying clear from such properties following the ongoing debate.
For example, according to the third quarter data from the HDB in 2018, a 3-bedroom flat in the estate was transacted for S$279, 000.
In contrast, the median price during the same period in 2016 was transacted for S$300,000.
Having said that, other factors do come into play such as the supply of new Built-to-Order (BTO) flats which has influenced the resale price.
However, until the government addresses the uncertainty surrounding older estates, we are likely to see the values declining as it is very much influenced by market sentiment.
#5: Widening price gap between a private property and an HDB flat
While the private property market has seen the price index picking up by some 11.0 points, the HDB Resale Price Index (RPI) has been on a decline.
According to data from the HDB, the RPI has been on a decline since the second quarter of 2013 as it continues to launch BTO flats in the market.
This is the biggest price gap in over 10 years and will likely be a contentious issue when the general election is expected to be called in 2019.
#1: HDB to become a hot-button issue
2019 is expected to be an election year.
As such, HDB will be a hot-button issue as 80 per cent of the population lives in HDB flats.
As we have discussed above, HDB resale prices are already on the decline while the price gap between a private property and an HDB flat has widened considerably.
The government will need to address the ongoing debate on the value of older HDB flats moving forward.
#2: Fewer BTO flats to be launched
In November, the HDB said it launched 7,214 flats for sale under the Build-To-Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise.
This comprises 3,802 BTO units and 3,412 SBF units across various towns estates such as Sembawang, Sengkang, Tengah, Yishun and Tampines.
However, there will be fewer units being offered in the next BTO launch exercise in February 2019.
The HDB said it will offer about 3,100 flats in Jurong West, Kallang Whampoa and Sengkang.
#3: A sellers' market
With fewer BTO flats on the offering, this could possibly divert some of the buyers to the resale market and prop up the resale prices which have been falling since the second quarter of 2013.
As such 2019 could likely be a sellers' market.
Sellers should watch the market closely while buyers should opt for a BTO quickly.
#4: Five growth areas
As outlined in the URA Master Plan 2014, the five growth areas are located at Woodlands Regional Centre, Jurong Lake District, City Centre, Paya Lebar Central and Punggol Digital District.
Woodlands Regional Centre will be a transportation hub which will connect the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) to the Johor-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) via Woodlands North MRT station.
Meanwhile, Jurong Lake District will house the High Speed Rail station linking Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in 90 minutes flat.
The development of the project has been postponed to two years and will now commence construction in 2020 instead of 2018.
Meanwhile, the express service will only commence by 1 January 2031 instead of 31 December 2026, as originally planned.
You can read more about URA Master Plan 2014 here.
#5: Opening of TEL will provide a price booster for properties along the line
The TEL is a 43km MRT Line that will add 31 new stations to the existing rail network, with 7 interchange stations.
It will link to the East-West Line, North-South Line, North-East Line, Circle Line and the Downtown Line.
Spanning from Woodlands North to Sungei Bedok, the line will be opened in stages next year.
Stage one will comprise stations from Woodlands North to Woodlands South.
As such, properties in the Woodland Regional Centre as highlighted above will be among the first to enjoy the price booster when the stations commence service next year.
This will definitely be much to cheer about in the north amid the muted HDB resale market.
An independent analysis from yours truly